Monday, November 09, 2009

Laguardia, Spain (Part 2)

Lunch at Bar Velar (37 el Santa Engracia, Laguardia) consisted of flamenquines, bocadillo con lomo, tortilla de patata (pictured) and something else unidentifiable - we were just pointing at tapas that looked good. Cheap but a little greasy.

After a siesta we headed out to Marques de Riscal, in the neighboring town of Elciego, an enormous winery attached to a hotel designed by Frank Gehry, hence the crazy twisting metallic shapes. Unfortunately the tour, which costs €10 per person, was in Spanish (oops!). Still, we got a sense of how big this place was and enjoyed the tasting of the 2008 Rueda Verdejo (white wine) and the 2004 Reserva. I never associated Rioja with white wine before but this one was great - really refreshing with some tropical fruit flavors.

Back in Laguardia, we popped into a bar right in front of the church of St. Mary for a couple of glasses of Crianza - the 2006 Decenio and the 2006 Ruiz de Vinaspre. Both were good but we preferred the Decenio.

We later stumbled upon a fabulous wine bar and cellar called Entrevinas y Olivas (12 Cuatro Cantones, Laguardia) where we had some of the best olive oil and bread I have ever tasted. We also tried three wines - the 2004 Finca Valpiedra Reserva, the 2005 Esencias de Varal and our favorite of the three - the one our friendly waitress recommended - the 2006 Cantos de Valpiedre.

We headed back to Mayor de Migueloa to tour their wine cellars. It was in Spanish, though we got a quick English summary afterwards, and we tasted their Joven and Crianza (again).

We had dinner upstairs at the hotel restaurant, where we ordered a bottle of wine, and had our other funny encounter with Mama. She told me I had to order the croquetas as a starter. After some cheek pinching and hugging I agreed. Mama came back with wine, gesturing about how good it was, but when I looked at the label more closely I realized she had given us a totally different bottle (2001 Imperial Reserva) from the one we ordered. At this point, we were loving the wine so much we didn't kick up any fuss, and then the croquetas came out and they were a revelation - I think these are the first proper croquetas I've ever had, with creamy, ham speckled centers and an incredibly thin, crunchy crust. The ox entrecote with blue cheese sauce was delicious and the Riojan stew of chorizo and potatoes was comforting and hearty - this is probably one of my favorite meals in recent memory. The atmosphere in the restaurant was perfect and after we finished dinner, a neighboring table of Spaniards who had also been on the wine tour with us invited us to join them, although conversation was a bit tricky as only one of the four of them spoke English. When we checked out we got a bit of a surprise as the wine that Mama had substituted cost way more than we expected. Still, there was something so charming about the hotel we couldn't help but enjoy our stay.

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